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Volume 23 No. 13
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To get into NFL, sportsbooks will have to play ball

When the NFL opens up the sportsbook category for team-level sponsorships, clubs expect their choices will be limited to companies that buy their data from Sportradar, sources said.

 

That requirement is one way the NFL will seek to spur adoption of its official in-game data streams, to be distributed exclusively by the Minneapolis-based company under its groundbreaking NFL deal announced Aug. 12.

Many books are skeptical that officially licensed data is worth the increased cost, but under this rule they’d be locked out of NFL-based promotion in the markets that matter to them — the ones in states that allow sports betting — if they don’t buy it.

An NFL spokesman confirmed the provision already exists for casino sponsors of NFL teams, which were first permitted by the league in August 2018. At the time, the rule was prospective, envisioning the eventuality of the Sportradar deal.

The league continues to push for laws and regulations that would mandate the use of official data, arguing it’s necessary to protect consumers. None of the 10 states currently offering sports betting require the use of official data, but two in the next wave will: Tennessee and Illinois. Each is home to an NFL team.

For now, NFL teams can only accept deals with casinos advertising their general appeal, not sports gambling in particular. But with the Sportradar deal, the NFL is now getting revenue directly from sports gambling for the first time. Sports betting is up and running in two states with NFL teams — New Jersey and Pennsylvania — and also legalized in Washington, D.C., Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee, which are working on regulations, with rollouts expected in the coming months.

Insiders say they expect the category to be open in the next two seasons, but there’s little reason to believe a change is imminent. The league says there’s no firm timeline. The rule would be similar to MLB and the NBA, which allow teams in states where sports betting is legal to sell sponsorships to sportsbooks, but only those that purchase official league data.

Kip Levin, president and COO of the FanDuel Group, said they’re still learning what the Sportradar deal means for their company.

“We’re still figuring that out,” Levin said of whether this will open the door to work with NFL teams. “We’re excited that they’re doing it. We have a large commercial relationship with Sportradar. Now we’ll see what this all means in terms of getting access to that feed.”

As the nation’s most-bet-upon sport, the NFL triggered a new round of attention on the inexorable spread of legal betting in the U.S. with the data deal.

Last week, CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus signaled that the network may reconsider its prohibition on gambling references in programming. Also, ESPN announced that the hourlong “Daily Wager” sports betting show that launched five months ago on ESPNews will graduate to ESPN2 and expand to six days a week, adding a Sunday morning slot in time for the NFL season.

First Look podcast, with NFL discussion at the 20:40 mark: